“Lonquich does not just image what a piece of music should sound like. As a conductor and a pianist, he is also able – and this is the main thing – to realize what he imagines.” This is how the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung describes the Prague Spring 2017 Artist in Residence, the pianist Alexandra Lonquiche. He is an artist whose name is mentioned most frequently in connection with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), and he will be presenting to the Prague Spring public two piano concertos by that giant of the Classical era: the Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major KV 459 and the Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major KV 453. The music of this genius of classicism will be placed in an interesting dialogue with the master of neoclassicism, Igor Stravinsky.
Mozart composed the first of the concertos mentioned above, the F major, for his own use in December of 1784, probably for one of his Advent concerts. The celebratory character of the introductory Allegro first movement was apparently the reason why Mozart chose this concerto for a performance on the occasion of celebrations of the coronation of Emperor Leopold II in Frankfurt in 1790. A curious feature of the work is the middle movement, an unusually lively Allegretto, and it is followed by an elemental Allegro assai. Mozart composed the second of the concertos, the G major, for his pupil Barbara von Ployer in April of 1784, and this is one of the composer’s few piano works published during his lifetime.
Also to be heard on the evening’s programme are two famous works by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971), one of the most interesting musical figures of the 20th century. His ballet with singing titled Pulcinella was premiered on 15 May 1920 in Paris by Sergei Diaghilev’s legendary Ballets Russes. It is interesting to note that Pablo Picasso designed the costumes and sets for the premiere. Diaghilev chose the subject matter, the early eighteenth-century Neapolitan folk story Le quattro Polcinelle, and Stravinsky was supposed to arrange music by Giovanni Batista Pergolesi (1710 – 1736) for the ballet. Although he did not like the idea at first, he allowed himself to be talked into it, and that led to the creation of one of the first neoclassical stage works. For Stravinsky, it meant the arrival of another extremely important creative period, which would be characterized by neoclassicism and would bring dozens of new works over the following decades. It is not hard to image how surprising it must have been when Stravinsky, the composer of The Rite of Spring, then still regarded as exceptionally brutal music, wrote this transparent piece, carrying on old traditions in a new way. The Dances Concertantes were composed in 1941 for a commission from the Werner Jannsens Symphony, which gave its first performance under the baton of the composer himself in February of 1942. Although composed “just” twenty-two years after the premiere of Pulcinella, the following pearl of an anecdote just shows how turbulent the changes were that musical aesthetics underwent in the twentieth century: the work’s Paris premiere in 1945 was met with noisy protests from the pupils of the composer Olivier Messiaen, we declared that Stravinsky’s neoclassicism was unbearably old-fashioned. Might they have been wrong? Stravinsky’s music still sounds fresh and modern nearly a hundred years since its premiere.
Camerata Salzburg has a rich history spanning over sixty years and is closely associated with the legacy of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Based at the famed Mozarteum in Salzburg, the orchestra regularly appears at the Salzburg Festival and the Mozartwoche, where it performs both orchestral works and operas. The bulk of its repertoire consists of Mozart’s works along with music by Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert. In addition, the orchestra plays music of the Romantic era and of the twentieth century. Its varied discography includes, among other things, two complete editions of the Mozart piano concertos (Géza Anda, András Schiff). Among the artists who have collaborated with the orchestra are Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell, Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia, and Sir Robert Norrington, who served as the ensemble’s principal conductor from 1998 to 2006.
The German native Alexander Lonquich studied piano with Paul Badura-Skoda, Andrzej Jasínski, and Ilonka Deckers-Küszler. He earned international acclaim in 1977 by winning the prestigious Alessandro Casagrande Piano Competition, after which he made solo appearances at the age of just sixteen with a number of leading European orchestras. During his career, he has made appearances at famous concert halls not only in Europe, but also in North America, Asia, and Australia. His wide range of repertoire, spanning from classicism to contemporary music, is dominated by the music of W. A. Mozart, and he is highly regarded for his interpretations of Mozart’s works. He is also active in the field of chamber music, for which his regular musical partners include the violist Veronika Hagen, the cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, the soprano Ruth Ziesak, and the violinist Christian Tetzlaff. A critic for the New York Times characterized him as follows: “The most pleasing aspect of this collaboration was the degree to which Mr. Tetzlaff and Mr. Lonquich played this music as a series of dialogues, with phrases shaped as questions and rejoinders, assertions and rebuttals, and stretches in which the pleasure of agreement created its own energy and pushed the conversation forward.”
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